In 1927, Greenfield Village was “born,” as Henry Ford began to acquire buildings and move them to Dearborn for his historical village. The first building Ford bought was the Clinton Inn (now Eagle Tavern), which came from the village of Clinton, Mich., about 45 miles west.
Clinton Inn (now Eagle Tavern) on its original site in Clinton, Mich., mid-1920s. THF237242
The dilapidated 1831 stagecoach inn had stood on the Chicago Road in Clinton for almost 100 years. Ella Smith, its owner, still lived in the badly deteriorated building. As Henry Ford’s agents stood inside the crumbling structure, they worried it might collapse. One of Ford’s assistants observed, “There was only one man in 4,000 that would consider it anything but a pile of junk.” Yet, Henry Ford’s vision and resources assured that this early 1830s inn--built when Michigan was still a territory--survived.
The Clinton Inn (now Eagle Tavern) in Greenfield Village, August 1929. THF123747
By summer 1929, the inn stood--restored--on the village green, as Greenfield Village continued to take shape around it.
Hanks Silk Mill was acquired by Henry Ford in 1929, moved to Greenfield Village in 1931, and reconstructed in 1932, with a grove of mulberry trees (the standard diet of silkworms) planted nearby in 1935. The mulberry grove still stands, but the mill is a fairly small, unassuming-looking building, which belies the “firsts” in its history. Established in 1810, it is believed to be the first water-powered silk mill in the United States, and perhaps also to have produced the first machine-made silk.
As part of our ongoing effort to digitize photos of the buildings of Greenfield Village, we’ve just digitized over a dozen images of the Hanks Silk Mill, including this 1931 photo of the mill on its original site, with a sign proudly proclaiming its heritage. Visit our Digital Collections to view all the newly digitized images.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
That’s how Jim Johnson described Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow.” The 1820s short story is the inspiration for the grand finale of sorts at Hallowe’en at Greenfield Village – where visitors cross the bridge and encounter the infamous Headless Horseman.
Irving’s story, Gothic literature, legends and other spooky tales are fundamental elements for much of the fun at Greenfield Village’s annual Halloween event.
“After the renovations to Greenfield Village, we decided to lift our Halloween event to a new level,” said Jim Johnson, who is senior manager of creative programs at The Henry Ford. “With the village as our backdrop, we wanted to find our own niche that had something for everyone and was family friendly.”
Just being in the village at night is a unique experience, and it provides the perfect setting for a Halloween event inspired by the past.
Jim said they looked at how the holiday evolved. “We found interesting things about how the celebration of Halloween changed over time,
“Customs started to take shape toward the at the end of the 19th century and almost click through a process that takes us to where we are today - where we decorate our homes and go house-to-house for trick or treating.”
Coming into the 20th century, Halloween wasn’t necessarily a kids’ holiday – other than they commonly pulled pranks like knocking over outhouses, putting wagons on rooftops, etc., Jim said. In order to curb the kids’ enthusiasm for a little mayhem, municipalities got into the action by planning themed parties and offering games and treats as a diversion from the destruction.
To meet the party trend, at the turn of the century and into the 1920s and 30s, there were a multitude of Halloween party guides and booklets published mostly by women, and candy and novelty companies.
A popular inexpensive resource was Dennison’s Bogie Books. Dennison’s sold crepe paper used to decorate and make costumes. Jim Johnson keeps these reproductions on hand for reference and inspiration.
Adventure stories and Gothic literature were popular at that time and have sustained elevated interest at Halloween time. Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventures of buccaneers and buried gold in Treasure Island continues to inspire as seen in recent movie tales of tropical pirating. At Greenfield Village, pirates with sensibilities old and new populate the Suwanee Lagoon and walk among visitors, giving them a taste what it might be like conversing with an 1880s-style high seas treasure seeker.
With a nod to Gothic literature, Dr. Frankenstein has a perfect workspace - setting up shop in Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory.
Mary Shelley’s story of Frankenstein still holds the attention of audiences today, even though the book was first published in the early 1800s.
Another famous character from Gothic literature is making his debut at the village this year. A silent film based on Bram Stoker’s 1887 Dracula is shown near Sarah Jordan Boarding House.
Visitors are captivated by the large projections of the 1922 vampire film Nosferatu (Dracula).
Works of the master of the macabre – Edgar Allen Poe – are highlighted in two prominent stops.
The ravens resting on the railing at Eagle Tavern are treated to the eerie tale twice: narrated once by a famous actor and once by a fictitious man. Visitors can hear the chilling story told by actor Christopher Walken and again by cartoon character Homer Simpson.
Poe makes another appearance near Town Hall where actor Anthony Lucas provides a mesmerizingly haunting performance of the mad man at the center of the Tell-Tale Heart.
A first person account of the Brother’s Grimm tale of Hansel and Gretel (with a surprise twist) keeps audiences of all ages intrigued.
Throughout the village – authentically or whimsically – many costume creations are inspired by characters from famous stories of old. Hunchbacks, witches, Little Red Riding Hood, mermaids, fortunetellers, strong men, Merlin the Magician...
… and even a character from Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser.
Near the end of trick-or-treating through the village, visitors can take a seat and listen to the tale that sets the scene for the remainder of their journey – through the dark candle-lit tangles of the Mulberry Grove (not-too-hauntingly) transformed into Sleepy Hallow.
Actor Seth Amadei gives a riveting account of the series of events that led up to the mysterious disappearance of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hallow.
Visitors just have to pass through the hallow and over the bridge …
Hallowe’en at Greenfield Village - inspired by old, new, mystical, whimsical and just the right amount of spooky.
It’s been three months since my first visit to our Pottery Shop to learn about our potters’ studio pottery challenge. Since then the team has been hard at work not only finishing their pieces but getting back into the day-to-day routine that comes with the village being open to guests. Recently I paid my last visit to the group to see the final results and learn more about what each team member took away from the project.
For Alex Pratt, he was very surprised by how his pieces turned out. Some results were very unexpected, but that made for good results. He’s very excited by the promise of some new slip colors he was working with.
“I’m really pleased where this let me go,” he said. “I’ve got a lot to take away mentally; it was a really energizing project.”
Melinda Mercer was also very pleased with how her pieces looked after being fired, specifically the colors that were achieved. Our new salt kiln has been fired just four times so far, so it’s still very exciting to see how the pieces are developing. Melinda’s custom-stamped piecing required a lot of time-consuming glazing, but in the end it was totally worth it. The contrast between the glazed and unglazed portions are some of her favorite results.
“It was a very valuable experience to try things we don’t normally do,” she said.
For John Ahearn, the sculptural bowl he created was his favorite piece. He was very excited to see that his cake plate made it through the firing process. After all, “lots of funky things can happen in firing,” he said. As I took photos and admired the team’s hard work, John said how cool it was to see the group’s pieces finished and on display, especially thinking back to the first day he was given the creative assignment. He then summed up his feelings with a smile and this statement that I think we can all be appreciative of.
“I’m just really glad to be a potter.”
Keep an eye on the Pottery Shop and our Liberty Craftworks store in Greenfield Village in the coming weeks; not only may you be able to see the team’s hard work up close, but purchase one of these one-of-a-kind items, too!
Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.
Although there were no Civil War battles fought in Michigan, and we have not graves to decorate, Greenfield Village has become a place where we commemorate one of the most pivotal time periods of our Nations’ History. Since 1993, The Henry Ford has hosted Civil War Remembrance in Greenfield Village over the Memorial Day weekend to honor the sacrifice of not only those from 1861 – 1865, but of all veterans who have faithfully served in the protection of the United States. Memorial Day’s genesis can be traced to the American Civil War as comrades, families and small towns across the land decorated the graves of recently fallen soldiers.
The Civil War Remembrance program offers an opportunity to journey back in time to a moment when our nation was engaged in a massive civil war affecting lives across thousands of miles. Guests can appreciate and honor the memory of those four defining years where more than 3 million would have fought and over 750,000 will have died – the equivalent of 7.8 million dead today. As we are in the fourth year of the Civil War sesquicentennial years, it's important to reflect and think about this time period 150 years past and how it's relevant to our world today and for our future. One of the ways we make those distant events relevant is through commemoration and programming. Civil War Remembrance is one such way and is an officially recognized event by the Michigan Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee through the Michigan Historical Commission.
It's important that we remember the extraordinary service and paramount sacrifice of the common individual soldier who drew from that large reservoir of bravery and courage to continue onward in spite of almost certain death. To their families and to their generation they were known, for the pain and loss of a loved one was felt directly and with absolute certainty. To us they are unknown in name only as their actions will live forever. And to those families and loved ones who sustained incredible and permanent loss, undue hardships and burdens beyond imagine, we must always sustain and uplift the memory of those contributions that made such an indelible impression on our identity. As a principal defining moment, this monumental conflict put into motion a series of events that has brought us to where we are today as a people and as a nation. Their determination and perseverance wove yards of whole cloth creating a foundation for America’s tapestry that continues to be created.
Civil War Remembrance is one of the most comprehensive programs of its kind – we like to say it's the ultimate tribute to the ultimate sacrifice. This program draws participants, historians and experts from throughout the country. Over the three-day weekend Greenfield Village will come alive with special recognition opportunities, commemorations, musical performances, exhibitions, demonstrations (tactical infantry, artillery and cavalry), dramatic performances, hands-on and participatory activities and much more. One of my favorite program offerings is "Enlist in the Army" where guests can “enlist” in the army receiving a reproduction enlistment form from an 1860’s recruiter at the Phoenixville Post Office. After enlistment, they head to Dr. Howard’s Office to see if they are fit for service (everyone passes with a cursory superficial “if you're breathing you're good” exam), and then they are off to the Logan County Courthouse to be “mustered in” and prepared for military drill and schooling. At this point, the group of guests are commanded by an officer in the Federal army, given wooden muskets and then drilled on the Village Green with commands and movements as new recruits would have received during the war. We only need to figure out how to muster them out of service at the conclusion of the day!This year we have Tim Erikesen and The Trio de Pumpkintown as our primary musical performance with an extended concert Saturday evening with shorter performances both Sunday and Monday. Tim is acclaimed for transforming American tradition with his startling interpretations of old ballads, love songs, shape-note gospel and dance tunes from New England and Southern Appalachia. He combines hair-raising vocals with inventive accompaniment on banjo, fiddle, guitar and banjo sexto-a twelve string Mexican acoustic bass-creating a distinctive hardcore Americana sound. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the 1864 presidential election wherein Abraham Lincoln won a second term in office. We will have a re-created Lincoln Campaign Head Quarters stationed out of the Tintype Studio in Greenfield Village.
For 2014, The Henry Ford is very pleased to have partnered with the National Park Service in delivering special presentations and outreach programming through the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Battlefield relating to the 150th Anniversary of General Grant’s Overland Campaign of 1864. For the highlight of this partnership, The Henry Ford will take part in Reverberations, an innovative program initiated by the National Park Service connecting three national parks in Virginia and eight communities around the country to illustrate the devastating impact of the Civil War on communities across the country. Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan is one of those communities.
This special candlelight illumination ceremony with John Hennessy, Civil War historian and chief historian/chief of interpretation at the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park military park, will be simultaneously conducted by the partner communities both North and South. This ceremony will culminate in taps being played in Greenfield Village and echoed to these other locations virtually as the event will be streamed live in conjunction with the other ceremonies. The activities will ultimately conclude with a grand illumination ceremony the Fredericksburg National Cemetery in Virginia.
Civil War Remembrance Weekend takes place in Greenfield Village Saturday, May 24, through Monday, May 26, with a special late night Saturday evening. Learn more about the program by visiting our event page.
Brian James Egen is Executive Producer at The Henry Ford.
One of the core features of the Civil War Remembrance program are the nearly 450 living history re-enactors that come in and literally camp in Greenfield Village. What many guests don’t know, and is often a question that is asked of these participants is, “Where do you get your clothing and equipment?”
A rather robust industry of proprietors, merchants and cottage business people have emerged over the past several decades to make and provide reproduction clothing, equipment, accouterments and just about every other imaginable article from the Civil War (and other) time periods. These merchants have created their own living history impressions known as sutlers. Sutlers were mobile stores and merchants that followed the armies and set up shop, usually under large canvas tents and temporary structures, to provide articles and goods that the army did not issue or supply to the troops. Today, re-created sutlers follow re-enactors to events across the country, including Civil War Remembrance, to sell reproduced living history items.
Many of the re-enactors purchase most, if not everything, from these sutlers and proprietors, but a small group of living history people make their own items. This group of living historians, both men and women, examine originals articles in museum collections, draft patterns and notes, conduct primary research and then go about re-creating said article to the exact detail. Often times this requires searching far and wide for the correct and appropriate fabric, notions and materials to create an absolutely faithful recreation that they will then wear and use. Often is the case that many of these items, including the specific fabrics, have to be made from scratch as they cannot be found at your local fabric shop. For some, this “obsession” with the period details, may seem like too much work, but for those who have embraced such aspects of the material culture from the time period their work has added immeasurably to understanding the time period and the details of everyday life for both soldier and civilian through one of the most universal and common aspects of our ancestors of the past and with us today – clothing! Everyone has done in the past, does today, and will probably for the foreseeable future, wear clothing!
Those of us who have researched, examined originals, and then set out to recreate accurate period clothing and attire from a particular time period have found that it goes well beyond generic fabric choice, color, etc. It is a must to have not only the correct weight, content, and properly (authentically) dyed fabric, but it is also cut, construction technique, thread use and more. An example of this may be a re-created Federal Fatigue Blouse commonly called a four-button sack coat. The army issued nearly 3 million of these and it was the most basic article of clothing for every Federal soldier (and even many Confederates that captured supplies from wagon trains, battlefield pick-ups, etc.). Although there were some variations in the fabric and construction techniques due to the various contractors making them, the regulations called for the fabric to be made of flannel (a lighter weight/utilitarian type wool with a distinct diagonal wale/twill) that was indigo dyed, cut in a specific manner/style, and constructed with #30 logwood-dyed linen thread. Although many were machine sewn, especially by contractors, many fatigue blouses were completely hand sewn, including the button holes. Government clothing depots issued kits to civilians to sew for contract pay – to make it equitable to all since not all had machines, they insisted they were completely hand sewn. So depending on the style of fatigue blouse you are re-creating it needs to be entirely hand sewn or a combination of machine/hand sewn.
Does all of this make a difference in building an authentic and accurate impression? Yes, it does. The jacket hangs differently off the body, the stitching is noticeably different, and looks nearly indistinguishable to the originals sans age. These differences, in conjunction with all the other aspects of putting an accurate impression together, really do create the, “that person looks like they just stepped out of a Civil War photograph,” comment.
Women and civilian impressions are equally wrought with attention to details down to the exact style of stitch to create a specific look on the bodice of a dress or a knife-pleat on waist seam. Creating the ever important then, and equally important now, proper silhouette starts with the appropriate and accurately constructed foundational undergarments for both men and women. Constructed appropriately and with the correct fabric, an exact look can be created from the time period. Whether it is the fine detail of tiny stitch revealed 5" from a skirt bottom, where the false hem was sewn in by hand, on the inside or the reinforced top stitching along the outer edge of the side back seam on a woman’s bodice, these are all the important details that many of the living history pursue to create a most accurate window to the past.
It's all in the details and the outcome of such can be profound. A photograph taken using a 1860s wet-plate process of a colleague taken years ago illustrates this point exactly. Robert Lee Hodge, noted living historian and Civil War battlefield preservationist, had created an impression of an early-war civilian soldier. Wearing accurately constructed period clothing, sporting period facial hair, carrying a battle knife, and even crossing his eyes slightly, you would not know if this man is alive today or if it was taken of a Missouri or Kansas “cut throat” or “boarder ruffian” from 1861. Rob’s accurately constructed drop-shoulder cotton plaid work shirt (or battle shirt), fancy silk cravat, jeans-cloth trousers – all with a great deal of wear patina – make this image indiscernible if was taken within the past ten or 150 years. Rob was one of the subject matters in Tony Horwitz’s 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Confederates in the Attic and this image was used on the paperback version of the book.
Volumes could be written on the material culture aspects and the use of such understanding for recreating clothing and articles of the past and it all begins with the study of originals. During Civil War Remembrance we are very fortunate to have material culture experts and historians bring in their magnificent collections for display in the Village Pavilion (the “Civil War Resource Center”) as well as provide special presentations sharing their deep and extensive knowledge. We have experts from Michigan, Alabama, Maryland and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania here over the weekend. The fashion show, “What We Wore – Clothing and Uniforms of the 1860s,” has been expanded this year and will be co-presented by local historian Beth Turza and Brian Koenig, material culture export from Pennsylvania. Both Beth and Brian construct exquisitely detailed period clothing.
Through researching, understanding and re-creating accurate clothing and articles from the past, we can get a clearer picture of the people and time period we seek to know. We are indebted to those who keep the skill, expertise and craft of the past alive and relevant. A quote that emerged from presentation workshop we conducted here years ago seems very appropriate for those who make period clothing for living history uses:
“We teach our hands with yesterday so the eyes of today will see the hearts of long ago.”
Brian James Egen is Executive Producer at The Henry Ford.
During Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village there are countless activities, performances and hands-on experiences to keep you busy all day long. Music is a large, important part of how we celebrate the weekend, so you can expect some fantastic performances all three days.
Taking a look at our lineup for this weekend you’ll notice some groups familiar to the stages of Greenfield Village. Included in that lineup is Tim Eriksen and the Trio de Pumpkintown. I had a chance to talk with Tim recently and learn more about his approach to songwriting and performing his own style of folk music.
Fans of the 2003 award-winning Civil War drama “Cold Mountain” will quickly recognize Tim and his work as he contributed several songs to the popular soundtrack. With a background working with some well-known names in the music industry, Tim’s career has been eclectic and fascinating all at the same time.
Describing himself as “hardcore Americana,” Tim takes an imaginative approach to his music. Guests can expect humor and intensity during his performance, especially those who are brand-new to his work; it’s an unusual take on folk music that will leave everyone pleasantly surprised.
Listening to Tim’s work can also be a bit of a history lesson, too, as he sings about a fictional New England village. To Tim, the line between history and fiction is often hard to draw. As he puts it, fiction is a very powerful tool in telling the truth. As an artist, he’s passionate about reimagining stories.
When it comes to influences, Tim finds inspiration from the New England communities of the late 1700s, a very diverse area during that time, in his opinion. Beyond the historical influences, Tim is inspired by the everyday objects he finds in nature.
After listening to Tim and the Trio de Pumpkintown’s performances this weekend at Civil War Remembrance, Tim hopes that guests enjoy themselves and engage in history. With Greenfield Village’s busy backdrop commemorating an important time in our nation’s history, you can assume that Tim’s hopes will definitely come true.
Tim Eriksen and the Trio de Pumpkintown take to the Town Hall stage in Greenfield Village for three performances during Civil War Remembrance: Saturday at 7 pm, Sunday at 2 pm, and Monday at 1 pm. For more information about this year’s weekend of events, check out the schedule and map.
Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.
In February I took my first visit to the Pottery to learn about the studio challenge our potters were given at the beginning of the year. It’s been a few busy weeks for the team as they work on both their challenge pieces and get ready for the opening of Greenfield Village on April 15.
It should come as no surprise that the pieces are all looking fantastic and completely different from one another, as they should be. Vessels now look like teapots, hand-crafted stamps have been busy stamping and over-the-top sculptures continue to be developed. For anyone who enjoys art and design, it’s a welcomed sight.
Taking my tour through the shop I visited Alex’s station first. He’s experimenting with some special stains for his collection. These pieces are covered in wax and when fired the wax burns away to reveal the true colors. Like the other potters, Alex isn’t worried about uniformity this time around.
“It’s been really interesting to work outside my comfort zone,” he said. “This is a learning process, but I’m feeling really optimistic about it.”
Melinda Mercer has been focusing on incorporating bold patterns and textures to her pieces, which is a new creative direction for her work. She’s also been focusing part of her project on hand building, a technique that’s a bit different for her.
To create her patterns and textures, Melinda decided to make her own custom stamps. To achieve the look she was going for she hand carved the designs into porcelain and then fired them in a kiln to make them permanent.
John Ahearn has added a few additional pieces to his artistic roundup of work for the challenge since I saw him last. While his pieces aren’t meant to be functional, he did create a cake stand that you can’t help but imagine holding a delicious, huge cake in the coming weeks.
“This project, in whole, has made me realize the power of art,” John said. “Doing something over and over is how we show guests what the production techniques from the past were. But the power of art is more than just production work. Now I understand what potters during this movement were doing at the time. They were being different on purpose.”
As the team agrees across the board, it’s been a lot of fun to see how their individual projects have been developing; and that includes being very different in size, scale and approach, which is the complete opposite direction of their daily production work and responsibilities. While initial sketches helped define the origins of each of their pieces, they haven’t kept themselves too married to those original ideas as the project takes shape.
“These pieces allow our personalities to come through,” Melinda said.
“These pieces really reflect who we are as people. Our styles have really influences our interpretations of the challenge.”
Check back soon for a final update from the team as they show off their finished pieces.
Lish Dorset is social media manager at The Henry Ford.
As spring officially begins today, Michiganders breathe a collective sigh of relief. For those who have experienced it, the winter of 2014 has been memorable; this is especially true for the Firestone and William Ford Barn staff who braved polar vortexes and many feet of snow to ensure our animals had the shelter, food, water, vet care, and stimulation they needed.
Throughout the winter months, we still had vet appointments, our farrier still changed horseshoes, we still taught horses new skills (when conditions were safe for humans and horses alike), and we still moved tons of hay and grain. Carrying several 50-pound hay bales is quite a task; doing the same through drifting snow and arctic winds is heroic! The folks who do this day-in and day-out do not see themselves as heroes, however. They have a deep dedication to the animals that make Greenfield Village home. This is inspiration enough to do whatever is required—and more!
As the days get longer, the sun stronger, and birdsong louder, we think about spring and our spirits are lifted. On the farm, spring means new life: blossoms, pasture grasses, oats, wheat… and lambs! As we prepare for our new arrivals (which should begin around the same time Greenfield Village opens for our guests), staff are busy preparing lambing jugs—small, private pens wherein lambs and mothers can bond, shearing pregnant ewes so that they are more comfortable and hygienic for birthing, and undergoing yearly special training that prepares everyone for the challenges and excitement that comes with lambing.
Despite the threat of more snow and cold temperatures, we know both spring and lambs are on the way… and we are eager to share both with our guests when Greenfield Village opens on April 15th! See you then.
Ryan Spencer is Senior Manager of Venue Interpretation and Firestone Farm at The Henry Ford. He encourages all to think spring!